Landlord’s legal rights

We specialise in providing legal services to landlords.For assistance with preparing a tenancy agreement, seeking possession and everything in between, we are here to help.

What are a landlord’s legal rights and obligations?

As a residential landlord, you are likely to be very familiar with the wording of a tenancy agreement. This agreement creates express rights and responsibilities for both yourself, as a landlord, and the tenant(s) of your property. However, it is important to remember that not everything  is contained in the tenancy agreement. There are other implied terms on landlords and tenants that do not have to be in writing, but will be read-into the agreement either by actions or by operation of the law.

For example, tenants are required to act in a ‘tenant-like manner’. This phrase was used by a judge in a leading legal case to explain the responsibilities of a tenant. Examples of such responsibilities include reporting any repairs to the landlord or letting agent, keeping the property well ventilated to prevent dampness and condensation, carrying out minor maintenance such as bulb changes and checking smoke alarms, disposing of rubbish, and ensuring the property is reasonably tidy.

The same goes for landlords, who are under a statutory duty to ensure that that a property is fit for human habitation, both when the tenancy begins and throughout its duration. This duty cannot be removed or limited by a clause in the tenancy agreement, nor can the tenant be penalised for relying on that duty.

When determining whether a residential property is fit for habitation, the following will be considered:

  • repair;
  • stability;
  • freedom from damp;
  • internal arrangement;
  • natural lighting;
  • ventilation;
  • water supply;
  • drainage and sanitary conveniences;
  • facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of wastewater; and
  • in relation to a dwelling in England, any prescribed hazard.

Unfortunately, disputes do often arise in respect of a landlord’s legal rights and obligations, which can make things very awkward and stressful. If any of the terms of the tenancy agreement are breached or the tenant is not behaving in a ‘tenant-like manner’, you have a right, as landlord, to take legal action. Where things are beyond resolution and eviction is the only answer, landlords should ensure that they do everything required by the law so that they are in the strongest position possible when the case comes to court.

It is therefore vital for landlords to ensure that the tenancy agreement is well drafted, setting out each parties’ rights and obligations clearly, with the document being easily accessible by all parties.

Communication is key. Ensure that there is a constant line of communication between yourself and the tenant, or via an agency if that is the preferred arrangement.

We would also recommend you exhaust all other options before beginning legal proceedings. For example, if your tenant is behind on rent, try to see if you can come to an arrangement with them. You should also consider Alternative Dispute Resolution; details of which can be found online.

When asking the court to make a possession order, you will be in a stronger position if you have done all you can and were fully aware of your tenant’s situation before taking legal action. This is especially true if you are relying on a discretionary ground for possession under Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988. Furthermore, the more information you have, the greater chance you will have of successfully countering any potential defence raised by the tenant.

If eviction is the only option, ensure that all the required steps are followed. Depending on whether you make a Section 8 or Section 21 possession application, make sure you follow all the steps prescribed by the Housing Act 1988 and the relevant sections, namely s28 to 48, of the Deregulation Act 2015. Failure to do so could see your application thrown out by the court and the process having to be repeated, causing delay and additional cost.

If you are having difficulty with a tenant and would like guidance on a landlord’s legal rights then please call our Devon and Somerset team on 0333 888 0404 or send us an email.

Picture of Emma Slade

Emma Slade

Emma Slade is a solicitor and partner specialising in professional negligence claims against professionals, commercial litigation, and Landlord & Tenant law.
Picture of Emma Slade

Emma Slade

Emma Slade is a solicitor and partner specialising in professional negligence claims against professionals, commercial litigation, and Landlord & Tenant law.

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